Laleh Khalili in The Guardian:
While attention and anger has focused on the incompetence and dysfunction of the Lebanese government and authorities, the roots of the catastrophe run far deeper and wider – to a network of maritime capital and legal chicanery that is designed to protect businesses at any cost.
Whatever sparked the initial fire, the secondary explosion that destroyed the port and so much of the city was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a port warehouse. A chemical used in both agriculture and construction, ammonium nitrate is associated with the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing in London and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. It was also the cause of huge explosions in Galveston, Texas in 1947 and Tianjin port in China in 2015, both of which killed scores of people. How did such a dangerous incendiary end up in a warehouse so close to residential areas of Beirut?
In September 2013, the cargo vessel the MV Rhosus – owned by a Russian, registered to a company in Bulgaria and flagged to Moldova – set sail from Batumi in Georgia to Mozambique.